Category Archives: Views

Promoting Art Ross

Back in February, while I will still hard at work on Art Ross: The Hockey Legend Who Built the Bruins, Art Ross III (who, along with his wife and his sisters, have all been great supporters – and great helps – on the project) sent me a few clippings from Boston Bruins programs he found in a family scrapbook. This story below appeared almost 44 years ago, on November 19, 1961, just over seven years after Art Ross had retired from the Bruins. Several bits and pieces from this article made their way into my biography … but I particularly liked where Henry McKenna noted: “So you can see that trying to write about Art Ross in a single chapter is virtually impossible. A book perhaps, but hardly a single article.”


So, why has it taken so long for somebody to write this book? I offer a few thoughts on that, as well as why I wanted to be the one to write it, on the web site of my publisher, Dundurn. Rather than write it all again, you can have a look here if you’re interested.

As many of you know, I’ve been out and about lately promoting the book. We had a launch in Toronto last month, and another a few days ago in Owen Sound (where the local Sun Times was the first to review the book). Barbara and I were also in Maine a couple of weeks ago for a wonderful Ross family long weekend, and then we visited Boston, where I appeared on the pregame show of a Bruins broadcast, caught up with some of the Bruins staff who had helped me along the way, and chatted with a couple of Bruins reporters.

On the air with NESN’s Dale Arnold

If you’d like to see the interview I did, you have to be on Facebook, but this link should take you there. (The part with me starts 20 seconds in.) Otherwise, you can listen to the radio interview I did here in Owen Sound. In addition, there has been some great coverage from prolific American hockey writer and broadcaster Stan Fischler, and, most recently, this review from the Winnipeg Free Press. Upcoming is a radio interview with Dave Fisher on CJAD in Montreal. (Montreal friends, I’ll try to keep you posted on that one.)

At Ben McNally Books in Toronto, wearing a Montreal Wanderers sweater loaned to me by
Society for International Hockey Research president Jean-Patrice Martel. Art Ross spent most of his playing career with the Wanderers.

Let’s just say the Barnes and Noble at the Prudential Center in Boston
has a lot of signed copies to sell

Owen Sound
Signing for fellow SIHR member Lorne Bell at the Owen Sound launch at The Ginger Press

Oh, and by the way, if you’ve already read the book and if you liked it, feel free to offer comments and reviews on web sites such as Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes and Noble. I don’t honestly know if it makes much difference, but it couldn’t hurt!

Chasing Art Ross

As many of you know, my newest book will be out this fall. It’s a biography of hockey legend Art Ross. Early last month, I wrote the following email:

Art Ross Title

From: Eric Zweig
Subject: Biography of Art Ross
Date: June 8, 2015 at 12:06 PM EDT
To: Bryan Trottier

Dear Mr. Trottier,

My name is Eric Zweig. For nearly 20 years, I have worked with the small publishing company that creates the NHL Official Guide & Record Book. I am also the author of more than 20 books about hockey and hockey history for both children and adults. You and I met several years ago in Kenora during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Kenora Thistles’ 1907 Stanley Cup championship. I spoke at the dinner about Art Ross’s contributions to the team.

This fall, I have a book coming out with Dundurn Press in Toronto that will be the first full-scale biography of Art Ross. In order to generate publicity for the book, several Canadian hockey writers have agreed to read advanced copies and (hopefully!) offer positive comments. Scotty Bowman and Harry Sinden have also agreed to do this. I am hopeful that you, as a past winner of the Art Ross Trophy, might be willing to provide a brief, written, comment about the experience of winning the Art Ross Trophy.

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure he would even receive the message. I certainly didn’t expect he’d remember me, and could easily imagine an email from an unknown address going directly to spam, or being deleted without a second thought. But to my delight, barely an hour later, I received the following response. I thought it was pretty amazing, and with Bryan Trottier’s permission, I share it with you now:

Trottier Art Ross

From: Bryan Trottier
Subject: Re: Biography of Art Ross
Date: June 8, 2015 at 1:14 PM EDT
To: Eric Zweig

Hi Eric

Winning the Art Ross Trophy was an interesting quest and achievement. The 1978-79 season was a strong year for our team [the New York Islanders]. Our line was having a terrific offensive year and Mike Bossy was on a tear scoring goals. We rode the wave and were too young and dumb to recognize any pressures. We were just doing something we loved to do.

I do remember feeling a bit selfish, which was uncomfortable, but as the season was winding down, I started to recognize how my teammates and Al [Arbour, our coach] were rooting for me. Everyone was making it almost a team mission. This I loved most! “Lets help Trotts win it.” I needed the support and talents of teammates… Clark Gillies, Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin were huge talents, [John] Tonelli, [Bob] Bourne, etc. I needed quality ice time from the head coach. [Al’s] combination of line mates and power-play groups — double shifting was helpful. I also needed the selflessness of some of the other center men sharing their ice time.

I believe Guy Lafleur and I were tied going into the last game of the season. I was in New York versus the Rangers and he was in Detroit facing the Red Wings, who were having another trying season. I thought, “Uh oh…” And Marcel Dionne had just had a five-point night to catch us as well, I think. I ended up scoring a goal and assist while Jim Rutherford shut out the Canadiens. I remember watching the out-of-town scoreboard and being amazed at what Detroit was doing. I came to the bench a couple times and Al asked if I could go again. “Wow, he’s really giving me every chance possible,” I thought, and Mike Kaszycki and Wayne Merrick were telling me to take their next shift. Wow, forever grateful to two great, selfless teammates. Dave Lewis, Ed Westfall, Bob Nystrom were all urging and prodding. “You may never get another whack at this kid,” so “go for it!” was their message.

I don’t believe I ever made a public declaration that I wanted to win the Ross, and I think Al Arbour and [GM] Bill Torrey liked that I was a bit reserved and guarded as to my comments or answers to the press when asked about the race. But it was there and I did give it my very best as I didn’t want to waste the opportunity afforded me by fate, teammates and coach/management. I do remember the Long Island fans loving it as the fan mail was full of well wishers, and I remember Mike Bossy being as proud as a brother when the season ended. “Feels good, huh?” he said. To which I said, “Thanks, Boss!” Enough said. We both knew what the other was thinking. “Couldn’t have done it with out ya!”

A few years ago, I was at an alumni event and a random hockey fan came up to me and told me that I was one of three players in the history of the game to win the Art Ross, the Hart, the Calder, the Conn Smythe, plus the Stanley Cup at least twice. I wouldn’t be in this group if not for Jim Rutherford and a 1979 Islanders team that pushed, supported, encouraged and motivated me.

I wish I knew more about Mr. Ross as a player, coach, manager, innovator, etc. Your research and creative writing will be of great interest. It will be an honor to read the book.

Bryan Trottier

Better Than Nothing?

Perhaps it’ll all work out for the best. Perhaps the money saved by trading Adam Lind, the player with the highest batting average in the Majors against righthanded pitching, for Marco Estrada, the pitcher who gave up the most home runs in the National League, makes sense. Perhaps the .202-hitting Justin Smoak is ready to bust out. Or, maybe, these are just the earliest moves in an offseason (hopefully!) filled with better ones to come. Still, the Lind trade put me immediately in mind of one of the greatest headlines in Blue Jays history:

Donate headline

This story appeared in the Toronto Star on Sunday, December 13, 1980, the day after the Blue Jays sent Bob Bailor to the Mets for Roy Lee Jackson. Bailor put up some decent numbers with the Mets and Dodgers after leaving Toronto, but the Jays didn’t really miss him. As for, Roy Lee Jackson, he’s probably best remembered as a pretty fine National Anthem singer, but he did have better stats than people might recall.

Still, an awful lot of Jackson’s wins came from Jays rallies after he’d blown leads … so much so that where other people might refer to those types of pitchers as “vultures” in my family, we referred to those types of situations as “Roy Lee wins.”

Here’s hoping the donation of Lind works out better!

Remembering Ralph

Anyone who grew up a sports fan in Toronto remembers Ralph. I honestly can’t recall anymore if I first came across him at Maple Leaf Gardens for Leafs or Marlies games (like Pops … remember him?) or at Exhibition Stadium for the Blue Jays. My most vivid memories of Ralph are certainly from baseball games, with him hustling up and down the stairs, quietly hollering (if that’s possible) “Programs. Yearbooks.” Did he also sell hot dogs at Exhibition Stadium? I think he might have.

I don’t remember how I first learned his name was Ralph, but I’d say, “hi Ralph” when I saw him, and he’d always say, “Where do I know you from?” I thought that was odd. He didn’t really “know” me at all, and I figured, how could he possibly even think he could keep track of me when he must have come across so many people that knew his name? Clearly there were those who knew him better than me, knew his quirks, and his odd habit of crashing Bar Mitzahs.

My father always used to say, “Ralph must be the hardest-working kid in the city.” He was shocked to learn that Ralph was much closer to HIS age than to my brothers and mine! My brother, Jonathan, knew him a little bit away from the ballpark, and it was through him that I learned of Ralph’s “Rainman-esque” feat of being able to provide the day of the week for any birth date. My brother, David, had a friend that was in charge of the program vendors at Exhibition Stadium for a while. I remember, after the Royals eliminated the Blue Jays in the 1985 American League Championship Series, Ralph saying something like, “Oh, well. The Dodgers [who’d been eliminated in the NL by the Cardinals] are stuck with a lot of merchandise too.” That did NOT make me feel any better!

Rest in Peace Ralph. I’m sure he’d be stunned by the attention and tributes his death has sparked.